Is cap and trade's death a chance for stronger action?

Some environmentalists would prefer Green New Deal

SALEM, Ore. - Could the death of the cap-and-trade bill in the Oregon Senate be an opportunity for the state to design stronger action on climate change? 

Senate Republicans haven't returned to Salem, even after Democratic Senate President Peter Courtney announced this week the proposal no longer had the votes to pass. 

But the measure has faced attacks not only from the right. Some groups on the left have been critical as well. 

Jim Walsh, an energy policy analyst for the advocacy group Food and Water Watch, says a market-based approach that still allows pollution through the use of offsets and other policies isn't good enough to reduce carbon emissions.

"Under the cap-and-trade program in Oregon, we would have had a number of dirty energy policies including carbon-capture sequestration and the use of bio-fuels that would have extended the use of fossil fuels and other dirty, polluting industries," he points out.

Walsh says sound policy would reduce carbon emissions at the source and halt plans for new fossil fuel infrastructure in the state. 

Supporters of the cap-and-trade bill say it would raise money for the state to transition away from fossil fuels. 

Opponents on the right say costs would be passed on to Oregonians and damage the economy.

Since the start of the legislative session, groups such as the Center for Sustainable EconomyOPAL Environmental Justice Oregon and Unite Oregon have argued that lawmakers should focus on an Oregon Green New Deal, rather than cap and trade. 

They say a Green New Deal would offer a chance at a transition that doesn't disproportionately affect low-income communities and communities of color. 

Walsh says there's evidence that California's cap-and-trade program has led to greater emissions near disadvantaged communities because companies can pay to pollute.

"We don't need to have pollution decisions come down to a balance sheet on a corporate ledger," he states. "What we need is states to take steps forward to actually reduce emissions at the source and force those emissions down."

Walsh says the state should provide more support for the renewable energy sector, noting that the rapidly growing industry could be a source for jobs in manufacturing, technological development and energy efficiency.

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